Maurizio Sarri said he decided to leave Ruben Loftus-Cheek out for Chelsea’s win at Southampton because he wants the midfielder to build up his fitness in training.
Loftus-Cheek, overlooked by boss Sarri and then sidelined by injury, returned to action on Thursday, playing 70 minutes of the Europa League win against MOL Vidi.
But he was not even on the bench for the match at St Mary’s, where Chelsea won 3-0 to continue their fine start to the season.
Asked if Loftus-Cheek is injured, Sarri explained: “No, not at the moment. After 70 minutes in the last match, for the first time this season, I preferred for him to have training.”
While Loftus-Cheek has struggled to establish himself under Sarri, Ross Barkley goes from strength to strength.
Barkley, recalled to the England squad this week, scored his first Chelsea goal and made a goal for Eden Hazard against the Saints.
“I am very happy for him. He had a serious injury in the previous season but he is improving,” Sarri said.
“Potentially he is a great player. He has quality in the physical and technically point of view and now is improving in the tactical point of view.
“He will become a very important player in England and for the national team.”